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Version of the Bible
a translation of the holy Scriptures
This word is not found in the Bible, nevertheless, as frequent references are made in this encyclopedia to various ancient as well as modern versions, it is fitting that some brief account should be given of the most important of these. These versions are important helps to the right interpretation of the Word. (See SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH.)
The Targums. After the return from the Captivity, the Jews, no longer familiar with the old Hebrew, required that their Scriptures should be translated for them into the Chaldaic or Aramaic language and interpreted. These translations and paraphrases were at first oral, but they were afterwards reduced to writing, and thus targums, i.e., “versions” or “translations”, have come down to us. The chief of these are, (1.) The Onkelos Targum, i.e., the targum of Akelas = Aquila, a targum so called to give it greater popularity by comparing it with the Greek translation of Aquila mentioned below. This targum originated about the second century after Christ. (2.) The targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel comes next to that of Onkelos in respect of age and value. It is more a paraphrase on the Prophets, however, than a translation. Both of these targums issued from the Jewish school which then flourished at Babylon.
The GREEK VERSIONS.
(1.) The oldest of these is the SEPTUAGINT, usually quoted as the LXX. The origin of this the most important of all the versions is involved in much obscurity. It derives its name from the popular notion that seventy-two translators were employed on it by the direction of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, and that it was accomplished in seventy-two days, for the use of the Jews residing in that country. There is no historical warrant for this notion. It is, however, an established fact that this version was made at Alexandria; that it was begun about 280 B.C., and finished about 200 or 150 B.C.; that it was the work of a number of translators who differed greatly both in their knowledge of Hebrew and of Greek; and that from the earliest times it has borne the name of “The Septuagint”, i.e., The Seventy.
“This version, with all its defects, must be of the greatest interest, (a) as preserving evidence for the text far more ancient than the oldest Hebrew manuscripts; (b) as the means by which the Greek Language was wedded to Hebrew thought; (c) as the source of the great majority of quotations from the Old Testament by writers of the New Testament.
(2.) The New Testament manuscripts fall into two divisions, Uncials, written in Greek capitals, with no distinction at all between the different words, and very little even between the different lines; and Cursives, in small Greek letters, and with divisions of words and lines. The change between the two kinds of Greek writing took place about the tenth century. Only five manuscripts of the New Testament approaching to completeness are more ancient than this dividing date. The first, numbered A, is the Alexandrian manuscript. Though brought to this country by Cyril Lucar, patriarch of Constantinople, as a present to Charles I, it is believed that it was written, not in that capital, but in Alexandria; whence its title. It is now dated in the fifth century A.D. The second, known as B, is the Vatican manuscript. (See VATICANUS.) The Third, C, or the Ephraem manuscript, was so called because it was written over the writings of Ephraem, a Syrian theological author, a practice very common in the days when writing materials were scarce and dear. It is believed that it belongs to the fifth century, and perhaps a slightly earlier period of it than the manuscript A. The fourth, D, or the manuscript of Beza, was so called because it belonged to the reformer Beza, who found it in the monastery of St. Irenaeus at Lyons in 1562 A.D. It is imperfect, and is dated in the sixth century. The fifth (called Aleph) is the Sinaitic manuscript. (See SINAITICUS.)
The Syriac Versions. (See SYRIAC.)
The Latin Versions. A Latin version of the Scriptures, called the “Old Latin,” which originated in North Africa, was in common use in the time of Tertullian (A.D. 150). Of this there appear to have been various copies or recensions made. That made in Italy, and called the Itala, was reckoned the most accurate. This translation of the Old Testament seems to have been made not from the original Hebrew but from the LXX.
This version became greatly corrupted by repeated transcription, and to remedy the evil Jerome (A.D. 329-420) was requested by Damasus, the bishop of Rome, to undertake a complete revision of it. It met with opposition at first, but was at length, in the seventh century, recognized as the “Vulgate” version. It appeared in a printed from about A.D. 1455, the first book that ever issued from the press. The Council of Trent (1546) declared it “authentic.” It subsequently underwent various revisions, but that which was executed (1592) under the sanction of Pope Clement VIII was adopted as the basis of all subsequent editions. It is regarded as the sacred original in the Roman Catholic Church. All modern European versions have been more or less influenced by the Vulgate. This version reads ipsa_ instead of _ipse in Gen. 3:15, “She shall bruise thy head.”
There are several other ancient versions which are of importance for Biblical critics, but which we need not mention particularly, such as the Ethiopic, in the fourth century, from the LXX; two Egyptian versions, about the fourth century, the Memphitic, circulated in Lower Egypt, and the Thebaic, designed for Upper Egypt, both from the Greek; the Gothic, written in the German language, but with the Greek alphabet, by Ulphilas (died A.D. 388), of which only fragments of the Old Testament remain; the Armenian, about A.D. 400; and the Slavonic, in the ninth century, for ancient Moravia. Other ancient versions, as the Arabic, the Persian, and the Anglo-Saxon, may be mentioned.
The history of the English versions begins properly with Wyckliffe. Portions, however, of the Scriptures were rendered into Saxon (as the Gospel according to John, by Bede, A.D. 735), and also into English (by Orme, called the “Ormulum,” a portion of the Gospels and of the Acts in the form of a metrical paraphrase, toward the close of the seventh century), long before Wyckliffe; but it is to him that the honor belongs of having first rendered the whole Bible into English (A.D. 1380). This version was made from the Vulgate, and renders Gen. 3:15 after that Version, “She shall trede thy head.”
This was followed by Tyndale's translation (1525-1531); Miles Coverdale's (1535-1553); Thomas Matthew's (1537), really, however, the work of John Rogers, the first martyr under the reign of Queen Mary. This was properly the first Authorized Version, Henry VIII having ordered a copy of it to be got for every church. This took place in less than a year after Tyndale was martyred for the crime of translating the Scriptures. In 1539 Richard Taverner published a revised edition of Matthew's Bible. The Great Bible, so called from its great size, called also Cranmer's Bible, was published in 1539 and 1568. In the strict sense, the “Great Bible” is “the only authorized version; for the Bishops' Bible and the present Bible [the Authorized Version] never had the formal sanction of royal authority.” Next in order was the Geneva version (1557-1560); the Bishops' Bible (1568); the Rheims and Douai versions, under Roman Catholic auspices (1582, 1609); the Authorized Version (1611); and the Revised Version of the New Testament in 1880 and of the Old Testament in 1884.